There may be few things we as the Body of Christ do more poorly than accountability and church discipline. Just mentioning those words makes most of us want to stop reading right now. (I certainly want to stop writing!) Except for the few of us who read those words and get excited—we love a good confrontation! This is what I’m finding as I live my life in community with others. We typically tend to one extreme or the other.
Many of us are inclined to ignore people’s sin (at least the “little” ones). We simply don’t want to confront people and don’t want to rock the boat. After all, we’re supposed to have grace and not judge, right? Looking the other way becomes our form of fellowship. Pretending we don’t see it and convincing ourselves that we are trusting God to guide the person is our logic behind being quiet. “Isn’t conviction the Holy Spirit’s job?” we ask ourselves.
And then there are those of us who are always on the lookout for a confrontation. Always ready to battle it out, always ready to challenge everyone on everything. We always have the answer, always want others to fix their problems, and want people to change completely now!
Why is it that in Christian community we either tend to be graceless or spineless? Why can’t we find the place of moderation and balance? Why can’t we be the people of humble restoration and burden sharing? Why are we so often either overly tolerant or extremely impatient? It seems that there is a critical balancing act of grace and discipline and we rarely make the effort to carry both well.
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:1-3
Paul is calling us to be the people of Christ; to see the sin that overcomes our brothers and sisters and to restore that person. Notice this: Paul calls us to humble and gentle restoration; to helping people back on the path. Correcting others isn’t a power play and it’s not a game of catching people with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
I actually know of a friend who once received a voicemail from someone who simply said, “I saw what you did yesterday.” That was it. There wasn’t any “Hi, this is so and so and I was concerned about something…” Just a one sentence message: “I saw what you did yesterday.” While I have seen some pathetic attempts at holding others accountable and correcting those in sin this one stands alone as probably the most disappointing attempt at being the Body of Christ I have been witness to. But it’s far from an isolated case. And anyone who’s spent more than a minute within church probably has their share of horror stories. We just fail epically when it comes to being the people of God who help one another grow and repent from sin.
And that’s part of why I love Paul’s words here at the beginning of Galatians 6. It’s a call to helping restore one another when we are overcome with sin. And Paul calls our attention to the age old adage: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Which simply reminds that we are no better than the one in sin and we could just as easily be there caught in what they are caught in…but for the grace of God.
And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
If ever we don’t believe that we could find ourselves in the same sin as the one we wish to help, we have no business helping them. If we cannot recognize that we are just as broken, just as in need of grace, just as likely to be overcome with sin as the one we are seeking to correct then it may just be that we are already overcome with the sin of pride and self-reliance.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23
Share each other’s burdens. That’s what Paul says to the church in Galtia. This is how we help correct others. This is the way to see them restored to the Body. Share their burden. It isn’t their problem to fix, it’s our problem to carry to the cross of Christ and give to him.
Paul ends this section with perhaps the most powerful element in his call to restorative, grace relationships: “You are not that important.” We should stop puffing ourselves up. We should stop believing our own hype. We are not as important or great as we like the world to believe. Accepting this fact alone should go a long way in helping us be people of restorative grace.
We are called and expected by God to accept nothing less than holiness from one another. We are to spur one another on to faith and good deeds. We are to expect repentant hearts from one another and deep reliance on the Spirit to produce fruit within us. But we need to expect these things with humility and gentleness; with the same grace that we’ve been given.
I feel it’s safe to say that the church as a whole has nowhere to go but up in how we practice restoration and accountability. It’s time we take these words of God to heart. We rightly restore when we share the burden, and revel in the grace that we all need.
*** Photo Southbound Train by eric feldman